Home Automation. It Ain't Just About Lamp Control.

October 16, 2014

I can remember the exact moment when I started in home automation. My wife and I were much younger and she had “inherited” a lamp timer; you know, one of those plug-in-the-wall, hog-the-whole-socket, ugly-as-sin, monstrous things you plug your lamp into so you can try to fool would-be predators into thinking someone was home. Being a computer “professional,” I thought there had to be a better way. Soon enough, I was installing an X-10 light switch.  Suddenly, I could program complex schedules for my outdoor lights; something impossible with those archaic plug-in things. Soon thereafter, I had several of those light switches in my home and I thought I was in automation-heaven. Our house was a model of “Mockupancy,” where anyone driving by would be hard pressed to tell whether we were home or not. Or so I thought at the time.
I see commercials for cable companies, cell phone companies, and other mass market companies, all selling what they call “home automation.” However, they don’t seem to be much more than the “lamp automation” I used way back when. When a friend tells me he paid “less than a thousand dollars” for the newest digital home solution on the market, I dare not ask them how many more hundreds of dollars a year they pay in a subscription service and I cringe when I see all of the “wall acne” they have stuck to their once beautiful walls.  
What I have come to learn is that “lamp automation” isn’t whole-home lighting, that a WiFi camera isn’t video surveillance, and that IFTTT (if this then that) isn’t whole-home automation. You shouldn’t need 7 different apps on your phone that run everything separately when you can have one app to rule them all.  And what’s more, your home automation system should talk to the devices that you already use and love in your home, not be required to purchase additional products from that mass market company.